5 Pages


When asked whether Europe, or the Euro pean Union in par ticu lar, is a strategic actor, many would hesitate to reply, if not provide an outright negat ive response. Many diplomats, milit ary and civil ser vants working in the Euro pean institutions even would have some doubts. That in itself proves that the EU in any case is not yet a fully fledged strategic actor. Nobody, in comparison, would doubt for a minute that the US or China is a strategic actor. That doesn’t mean that every one agrees with their strategy, but for certain they are at least perceived to have one. With regard to the EU, how ever, the notion of strategy provokes ambiguous reactions, on the part of pub lic opinion, aca demics as well as at the polit ical level. Some find it im pos sible to comprehend that any Western actor but the US would be a strategic actor – allow ances might be made for NATO. Others are fearful of the idea of EU strategy, and certainly of EU grand strategy, emphasizing some of the negat ive connotations, such as the intraEuropean wars of the past or co lo nialism. They are already picturing carrier groups, empires, and gunboat diplo macy, which run counter to their conception of the EU as a civilian or norm ative power. Building empires and invading one’s neigh bours is indeed a pos sible grand strategy – but not the one that the authors of this book ad voc ate for the EU. We will argue, how ever, with the strongest conviction, that the EU, the state-like actor that is the evid ent polit ical expression of Europe, is de veloping into, and indeed must be, a strategic actor. Ours, thus, is a norm ative book: it outlines how to achieve a clear polit ical pro ject for the EU as a strategic actor. Yet, the aim is not to profile ourselves as the ayatollahs of Euro pean integration. Like us, every one can observe though that implicitly the EU is converging in just about every pol icy area; witness in the area of foreign and security pol icy the adoption of the Euro pean Security Strategy (ESS) in 2003 and the reinforcement of the institutions and mech an isms of EU foreign pol icy by the Lisbon Treaty. At the same time, it is not too difficult to notice that im port ant obs tacles and shortfalls remain. On the basis of our own observations and of lessons learned by the EU and the Member States, we aim to offer constructive and realistic proposals for the way ahead and provide an answer to the expectations as

well as the criticisms of the EU as an inter na tional actor. Within the broad area of foreign pol icy, our focus is on the security dimension: starting from the grand strategic framework, we will look at foreign and security pol icy, and finally at the military. At the grand strategic level, first of all, its sheer eco nomic clout makes the EU into a global eco nomic power. That eco nomic power is entirely de pend ent upon the EU meeting global challenges – trade routes and sea lanes, pipelines and cyber space must be secured, climate change managed, and global fin an cial and eco nomic governance as sured. That requires the applica tion of eco nomic but also of polit ical and social means and, if neces sary, to get involved in crisis management with civilian as well as milit ary means. In other words, in order to preserve its status as an economic power, the EU has no choice but to become a power across the board. That requires a grand strategy, and the means and the will to proactively pursue it. That does not mean that the EU must mimic the other powers and adopt a grand strategy based prim arily on milit ary power, or on mercantilism. The EU is a distinctive polit ical pro ject. True to itself, its external action must reflect the values on which the EU itself is built. In this book, therefore, we aim to dem on strate that the EU can de velop a purposive yet distinctive grand strategy that pre serves the value-based nature of EU external action as it is currently propagated by the Union while safeguarding its vital inter ests (Chapter 1). While the EU does not use the term grand strategy, the ESS is a docu ment that operates at that level. Its distinctive holistic, preventive and multi lateral approach is a valid means of preserv ing EU vital inter ests – but only if it is translated into clearer pri or ities that allow for a proactive stance. The ESS must be translated in, among others, a foreign pol icy strategy, therefore, outlining prior ities and ob ject ives that give dir ec tion to the new foreign pol icy ma chinery that is being put into place fol low ing the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. While the EU can thus build on the existing approach of the ESS to craft a distinctive and value-based yet purposive grand strategy and foreign pol icy strategy, their implementation cannot rest on norm ative and civilian power alone. The EU must take into account that outside Europe many actors con tinue to see the world in starkly realist terms and meas ure power mostly by assessing milit ary power. For EU strategy to be cred ible and effect ive, therefore, it does require a milit ary dimension, in order to be able to engage in crisis management. In Chapter 2, we will argue that a performing milit ary tool is in dis pens able for the success of EU strategy. Vice versa, the milit ary instrument can only be used successfully if it is part of a comprehensive approach. Again, the EU ought not to take the position of the other powers as its starting point. A specific strategy for its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) must define the pri or ities for opera tional engagement within the framework of its holistic, preventive and multi lateral foreign pol icy. The EU must set its milit ary level of

ambition in function of its distinctive strategy, its view on the circumstances under which the milit ary instrument can be used, and the threats to its vital inter ests that it perceives. Clearly though, the milit ary remains one of the weaker dimensions of the EU. It is wrong to underestim ate Europe as a milit ary power. Collectively, the 27 EU Member States constitute the world’s second largest military power, second only to the US, and spending more than the other great powers together. And as the US is Europe’s first ally, the EU does not at this point in his tory have to fear a direct milit ary threat to its own territory. However, that massive milit ary expenditure does not result in a com parable milit ary capa city. The reason is that the Euro pean defence effort is a fragmented effort, focused on national rather than col lect ive Euro pean defence planning. The prob lem is well known, and so is the solution: topdown steering and co ordination to complement bottom-up con tri bu tions. But in Chapter 3, assessing capability de velopment, we will dem on strate that a lack of proper implementation of the solution means that as yet frag menta tion has not been overcome. As a result, the EU does not now possess sufficient deployable cap abil ities to pursue a CSDP strategy at an appropriate level of ambition. A feasible solution is at hand though. The move, with the Lisbon Treaty, from a Euro pean to a Common Security and Defence Policy (from ESDP to CSDP) must mean more than a change of name. In Chapter 4, we will plead for a creative use of Permanent Structured Coopera tion, the new mech an ism in the area of defence offered by the Lisbon Treaty. Building on the con tinued will of EU Member States to pursue the transformation of their armed forces towards expeditionary opera tions, notably by ex ploiting oppor tun ities for further pooling and sharing of cap abil ities, we propose a Permanent Capability Conference as a high-level polit ical platform to generate effect ive milit ary convergence. Systematic alignment of national defence planning through such a permanent and structured pro cess at the strategic level will enable each Member State to focus its defence effort on the right cap abil ities, to do away with redundant cap abilities, to make maximal use of pooling and specialization, and to con tribute to multi national pro jects to address Europe’s strategic capability shortfalls. In times of austerity, there is no al tern ative to Euro pean coopera tion if Europe wants to remain milit ar ily relevant. Euro pean coopera tion is not in com peti tion with trans at lantic cooperation. In a multipolar world, it is in Europe’s and North Amer ica’s best inter ests to maintain a strong part ner ship. But a strong part ner ship can only be a part ner ship of equals, as we will put forward in the fifth and final chapter. A strong and united EU will of course pursue its own inter ests and pri or ities, which will not always coincide with those of the US. On the other hand, only with a strong and united EU will true burden-sharing be pos sible. The key actors are the EU and the US, for they operate at the grand strategic level. Within a deep EU-US polit ical part ner ship, NATO is

one of the forums that Euro peans and Amer icans can use to implement common de cisions, but it is the EU and the US that will be in the driver’s seat, as the comprehensive foreign pol icy actors. Looking beyond the preju dices and the many tactical games in the eternal EU-NATO debate, we will show how recent de velopments at the strategic level could easily lead to a revitalized trans at lantic partnership. Ours is a norm ative but not a utopian book. Our aim is to offer to decision-makers prac tical re com mendations that could be implemented in the short to medium term. All the steps that we propose are feasible with the means that the EU currently has at its disposal. It is indeed not the means which are lacking, even though the EU would achieve better results and gain more cap abil ities if it were to put the existing means to use in a more co ordinated fashion. The real key is to provide EU external action with a sense of purpose – with a strategy, therefore, and with leadership. Our aim is ambitious, but our con tri bu tion is modest. We hope that some of our ideas, which are to a con sider able extent based on systematic and in-depth discussion with practitioners, may have an impact on the intellectual con text within which the decision-makers eventually decide – such is the role of think-tanks. Our own coopera tion reflects the mutually reinforcing relationship between aca demics (of which we regard thinktanks as a specific sub-species) and practitioners: on the one hand, an academic who started working on Euro pean strategy as a student already, who has written his licenciaatsthesis on the gradual integration of the Western Euro pean Union (WEU) into the EU at Ghent University in 1998, and who has researched Euro pean foreign and security pol icy ever since; and on the other hand, a milit ary practitioner, who has been at the heart of the de velopment of Euro pean defence ever since his first engagement with that same WEU in the early 1990s, and who went on to become Belgium’s Military Representative to the EU Military Committee. Through our own peculiar brand of civilian-military coopera tion, we have discovered that the distraction that comes nat urally with any type of professorship is quite similar to the distraction that comes equally nat urally with the retirement of any gen eral, i.e. the moment when he has to forgo his aide-de-camp. Cooperating on this pro ject has forged an already close friendship even closer. We also have many common friends to thank. This has not been a lonely undertaking; quite the contrary, we have been able to count on the support of many friends and colleagues, in think-tanks and universities, and in national and inter na tional institutions. We have bene fited enormously from interacting with them, and we want to sincerely thank all of them, for inspiring us, for providing us with their insights, and for helping us to sharpen our views by their constructive criticisms. Naturally, we as sume full respons ib ility for all opinions expressed, and all errors made, in this book. While some preferred not to see their names mentioned, and at the risk of for get ting others, we do want to expli citly mention, either for their spe-

cific con tri bu tion or for their gen eral inspiration, and in no par ticu lar order: Prof. Dr Rik Coolsaet (Ghent University), as the model of an engaged aca demic; Dr Alexander Mattelaer (Institute for Euro pean Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel), Sven’s inspiring PhD student; Brig. Gen. Dr Patrick Wouters (Belgian Air Force and NATO IMS), Sven’s challenging former PhD student; Thomas Renard (Egmont), our dynamic colleague; Prof. Dr Jolyon Howorth (University of Yale), who led the way in writing on Euro pean strategy; Dr Luis Simón (Institute for Euro pean Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and James Rogers (University of Cam bridge), two of the most innov at ive young thinkers on Euro pean strategy today; Dr Bastian Giegerich (Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut der Bundeswehr), Robert Hunter (Rand), Daniel Keohane (EU Institute for Security Studies), Fabio Liberti (Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques), Dr. Hilmar Linnenkamp (Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik), and Nick Witney (Euro pean Council on Foreign Relations), all at one point co-conspirators; Lt Gen. Guido Andries (Belgian Army), BrigGen. Johan Andries (Belgian Air Force), Brig. Gen. Gabor Horvath (EUMS), Col. Didier Ligot (Belgian Army), Maj. Jan Maenhoudt (Belgian Army), Brig. Gen. (ret.) Patrick Nopens (Belgian Army), Rear Adm. (ret.) Jean-Paul Robyns (Belgian Navy), Rear Adm. (ret.) Jacques Rosiers (Belgian Navy), Maj. Gen. Eddy Testelmans (Belgian Army), Maj. Serge Van Camp (Belgian Army), all inspired milit ary practitioners of Euro pean security; and François de Kerchove (Belgian Foreign Affairs), Walter Stevens (EEAS), Peter Van de Velde (Belgian Foreign Affairs) and Bert Versmessen (EEAS), all inspired diplomatic practitioners of Euro pean security. We also want to thank all the members of the working group on grand strategy that we set up at Egmont in 2009. Finally, our gratitude goes to Egmont – Royal Institute for International Relations itself, to its Director-General Marc Trenteseau, and to all our colleagues, for providing us with a stimulating work envir on ment – and for allowing us to take sufficient leave from it to write this book.